November 10th, 2010
01:51 AM ET

Washington may ban 'blackout in a can'

The Washington State Liquor Control Board will vote Wednesday on whether to ban the sale of alcoholic energy drinks in the state after a drink that some call "blackout in a can" sickened nine college students.

Last month, nine Central Washington University students were hospitalized after an off-campus party.

The students said they got sick after drinking "Four Loko," a caffeinated malt liquor also known as "blackout in a can," according to a police investigation.

Investigators concluded that none of the students were drugged or given alcohol without their knowledge, according to a school statement.

The findings convinced university President James Gaudino to ban "alcohol energy drinks" from his campus.

"We need to make sure that we're sending a strong message to students about the dangers of alcohol energy drinks, and we need to know more about the way it affects health and behavior," Gaudino said.

The drinks are "a binge-drinkers dream because the caffeine and other stimulants allow a drinker to ingest larger volumes of alcohol without passing out," the chairman of the school's physical education department said.

"Being able to feel the effects of tiredness, loss of coordination and even passing out or vomiting are the body's defenses against consuming doses of alcohol that will kill you," professor Ken Briggs said last month. "Regardless, once the blood alcohol level reaches a certain level you can drop like a box of rocks."

Police found the underage students passed out and "very intoxicated" at a party attended by about 50 students in Roslyn, Washington, on October 9, the police report said.

Each students consumed "Four Loko," while some mixed the canned drinks with other alcohol, including vodka, the report said.

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has called for federal food regulators to ban the beverages.

"They're marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol, and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are," McKenna said. "They're packaged just like non-alcoholic drinks, but include a dangerous dose of malt liquor."

The maker of "Four Loko" - Phusion Projects of Chicago, Illinois - said the company is doing "all we can to ensure that our products are consumed safely and responsibly."

"The unacceptable incident at Central Washington University, which appears to have involved hard liquor, such as vodka and rum, beer, our products, and possibly illicit substances, is precisely why we go to great lengths to ensure our products are not sold to underage consumers and are not abused," a company statement said last month.

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Misleading headline. if you mention "Washington" without immediately following it with "state" it at first glance appears to be a federal issue.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Psychobillyman


    November 10, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Larry Fine

    Personally, I think college students should be banned.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      This is the most educated answer I have read on these posts thus far. It would make complete sense to "ban college kids." Then we can have an even more ignorant society than what we are already working with. I am in college, I will drink, drink a a lot, but if you are an immature person, that problem is not anyone else s but your own. With that said, I will now sit back and enjoy a nice fine brew with the guys.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mark

    Four college students get sick from drinking. In other news, water is wet.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Mok

      its even worse than that...i hear they have $ex too...../shudder

      November 10, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. CantheGovernmentChangeDiapers

    Welcome to the nanny state! We should wrap everyone in this country with bubble wrap and force them to drink a slurry with optimal nutritional content and medicate them with a "legal" drugs which keeps everyone in a constantly neutral state of mind.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Glug Glug Glug

    wooooo, four lokooooooooo! i drinking em now...weeeeeeeeeeeeeee! glug glug they're good for you

    November 10, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mac

    I am of legal drinking age and have consumed these. If consumed at a reasonable pace, they are not going to have the result that these stories are saying. Will 2 of them get you drunk? Absolutely. Will they cause you to black out and vomit and come close to death? Certainly not. If you spread two of them over a few hours, you're fine.
    Take it from a guy who has actually consumed these more than a few times. I am sick of reading all these stories blowing this out of proportion. Most underage kids are irresponsible when it comes to drinking. Banning one drink will not change that. Red Bull and Vodka has been around for quite some time, where's the ban on that? You ban this drink, these kids are still going to get sick from drinking something else as an alternative.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael B

    My opinion....REMOVE the warning labels from everything, stand back and let the herd thin itself. We have allowed too many stupid people to survive. It is time to let them kill themselves and let those with common sense move on. Having to take care of stupid people out of compassion has caused this country to fall.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mckendo

    We drank these down the shore all summer with no incidents...they are the same as any alcoholic beverage – the more you drink the more messed up you get ... The kids consumed these ILLEGALLY and therefore what happened to them shouldnt be considered the normal reaction you get from drinking them. They are not a lightweight drink by any means but what they do is no different than any other drink you can get at a iiquor store or beer distriibutor. I used to get just as messed up off of Olde English 800 malt liquor when i was younger as you can get off four lokos – are we going to ban all malt liquor? this isnt the era of prohibition, alcohol is ILLEGAL if you are under 21, the kids who got sick off it should have learned a lesson and this be done with.

    I'm loco for the Lokos

    November 10, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tommy

    College students will find a way to drink whatever. When I was a freshman, I watched a guy drink 19 shots of tequila, he was a big guy but that was just plain stupid. If they're over 21, then let them drink, they will learn to be responsible one way or another.


    November 10, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. JJ

    why do we keep talking about the drink four loko when its these kids who did something illegal by drinking underage?? sent these kids to counseling to learn how to drink responsibly

    November 10, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bennett

    Since when is one Four Loko enough for someone to black out....I'm not a very experienced drinker and consider myself a lightweight and even I don't blackout on a Four Loko...

    November 10, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. A

    I hope they do ban these drinks! While I do have a friend at CWU who agrees that this story is really not what it appears to be, I have seen stories of this happening across campus and even in my own small town. Here people are drinking it "responsibility"...but often find themselves having heart palpitations and the shakes after just two. Biologically speaking, it's a nightmare to your system, just as vodka and Redbull is which is why I feel it should be banned.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. drinky

    When will we stop knee-jerk banning everything? Know what? Latex paint is hazardous for you if you drink it out of a can. How about a warning...put up a poster...make a commercial?

    Here's a quiz: How many people have been killed by Four Loko? How many people have been killed by cigarettes? Which one is seriously under consideration for a ban?

    November 10, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. brian d

    Pshhhhh and weed is illegal never heard of anyone ODing from weed "LEGALIZE IT"

    November 10, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • ryan

      in about 15 years when those who saw reefer madness, are no longer voting

      November 10, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
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